As Kaka‘ako’s projects are developed, the economic impact could be huge. In jobs alone, The Howard Hughes Corp. anticipates more than 4,200 jobs will be created in the next 15 years.
“Wai‘ea (a mixed-use condominium tower currently being built on Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamake‘e Street) just by itself is going to increase property taxes for the City and County that they can use for infrastructure by over $2.2 million every year,” said David Striph, senior vice president of The Howard Hughes Corp. “The project, when fully built out, will increase the property taxes by about $31 million.”
The developer of Ward Village recently acquired a 35-year harbor lease from Hawai‘i Community Development Authority. It plans to improve dozens of dilapidated boat slips.
“Our intent is to spend somewhere around $20 million to renovate and improve the docks and electricity down there,” said Striph.
The Howard Hughes Corp., the largest landowner in Kaka‘ako with 60 acres of land, offers community events including weekly yoga, an art and flea market, a farmer’s market, and a monthly movie at the IBM Building.
“What we’re trying to do is really show people what it’s going to be like to live here, and a lot of these things that are out here in the courtyard now, we anticipate will be in our four-acre park in the middle of the project,” said Striph.
Across the street in Kaka‘ako Makai, landowner Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) wants to develop 30-plus acres to provide for its programs and grants.
“We’re looking at mixed-use (projects). We’re looking at all options in terms of housing, and we’re also looking how to improve the Fisherman’s Wharf area and the promenade around,” said OHA CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe.
Kamehameha Schools is excited about its projects as well.
“One project we like to talk about is our SALT project. Our SALT project is a retail/restaurant project that we’re especially proud of because we think we’re able to capture… a modern look at what restaurants and retail ought to be,” said Livingston “Jack” Wong, CEO of Kamehameha Schools.
Wong says SALT relates back to the original use of this land more than hundred years ago.
“One of the great things about our SALT project is it’s really intended for our local community. It’s really intended to be for those who live in the area, those who want to shop, those who want to dine in the area,” said Wong.
SALT renderings provided by Kamehameha Schools
“That’s part of the neighborhood that we’re going to try to create, that feeling that there is no strip malls with big parking lots in front, but rather again street fronts with streets that people could then walk through, shaded, that they could feel that this was a part of that connection,” said Anthony Ching, HCDA executive director.
“In Kaka‘ako, you’ve got underground utilities. You’ve got sidewalks in many areas. You’ve got gigantic box culverts to move water away. You’ve got a very good sewer system and that’s why development is occurring there,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Critics are not convinced.
“Up to 2010 or 2012, there were 19 projects that were built in Kaka‘ako,” said Kaka‘ako resident Sharon Moriwaki. “Where’s the infrastructure? Who’s talking about the streets, the traffic, the sewers that smell if you walk through Kaka‘ako? Schools, if you want families, where are the schools? Where are parks? This is the only park except for Mother Waldron in Kaka‘ako, and yet you’re going to build for 30,000 more people? Who’s thinking about that? The developers aren’t. They’re building as fast as they can.”
Which triggers other questions, including some about education, like where will the children who will call the new Kaka‘ako home go to school?
Then there’s the issue of the homeless.
“A 1927 map showed an area of homeless camps, two camps of maybe 700 Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians in an area that was called ‘Squattersville.’ Today, in the park we are standing in, 90 years have passed and hardly anything has changed,” said author and historian Bob Sigall.
The city is pitching new ideas to help.
“We have this compassionate disruption program where we move people. We’ve gone there a few times, but it’s so disruptive and people come back very quickly,” said Caldwell. “That’s why we’re pushing this new concept called ‘Housing First’ where we get people into housing with wraparound supportive services. We’re making a dent, but the biggest challenge I’d say is in that community right there.”